Viva Mexico! Brooklyn Nets take on the OK3

Photo courtesy YES Network

Brooklyn Nets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Time: 10 p.m. EST  

Where: Mexico City Arena, Mexico City

Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO 

Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM

Photo courtesy YES Network

Was Monday night’s Nets win against the Atlanta Hawks the most impressive win the team has had all season? We’re still figuring that out, but Brooklyn was definitely rolling. Monday’s victory was a bounce-back game after a depressing loss to Atlanta on Saturday. After a neck-and-neck first half, Brooklyn unleashed a monster third quarter, going on a 17-0 run to give it a huge cushion and lead to victory. Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen showed tremendous chemistry, with the two youngsters straight up VIBING off LeVert’s drives and Allen’s athleticism. Take a look for yourself…

The Nets won, 110-90, with six players scoring in double figures. It was an uplifting game for the Nets, with the team showing resilience throughout. They improved to 9-14 on the season, with solid performances. It took the Nets until Jan. 20 to notch their ninth win last season. PROGRESS!

Thursday night, the Brooklyn Nets go from the home of Migos to the home of Amigos. Brooklyn will play two “home games” in Mexico City for the next two contests, opening up with a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder currently stand at 11-12 – a bit of a disappointing mark for a team slated to be a juggernaut earlier in the season. Despite the presence of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, OKC has been…mediocre. They currently sit at ninth in the Western Conference. Could it be time for a change?

Here are three things to watch for Thursday night’s contest pitting the Brooklyn Nets against the Oklahoma City Thunder…

Kiwi Watch

Despite the presence of three stars in OKC’s starting lineup, the presence of Steven Adams may be the thorn in the Nets’ side. Adams does everything needed of a big man – scoring, rebounding and straight up playing aggressively down low. His game isn’t flashy, but he plays his role to a tee. For the Nets, that may be bad news. The Nets thrived in their last game because of Atlanta’s lack of big man depth. Allen feasted against Miles Plumlee and Tyler Cavanagh, two less than ideal big options for the Hawks.

Adams, while he may not be a scorer, could be a force on the glass and in the paint against the Brooklyn Nets. He’s currently third in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game, grabbing 4.40 extra possessions for OKC’s offense per game. Adams is averaging more offensive than defensive rebounds this year (thanks, Westbrook). Tyler Zeller has been solid for the Nets, and Allen has improved each game, but Adams will be a huge obstacle for the Nets’ drives and defense.

LeVert Don’t Hurt

LeVert’s recent performances have lifted the Brooklyn Nets. After a shaky start to the season, LeVert has looked more comfortable in a lead ballhandling role off the bench. LeVert’s 17-point, six-assist performance against Atlanta on Monday was promising, with the sophomore looking confident inside and out. He understood when to set up his teammates, or call his own number. Both his point and assist totals were season-highs for him. Could LeVert be turning a corner a quarter through the season?

Against OKC, LeVert will likely come off the bench again. The Thunder’s second unit isn’t exactly awe-inspiring, with most of the team’s firepower centered on the starters. If LeVert can control the second units of both teams, the Nets can score some easy baskets and mitigate any major damage done by OKC’s starters.

Opponent: Altitude 

The Nets playing a game in Mexico City is a big step for building a global basketball brand, but on the court, the City itself may be a big factor – for both teams. Mexico City is located 7,382 feet above sea level, that’s over a mile and a half. In comparison, Denver is located 5,280 feet above sea level (hence, Mile High City). Teams already have a hard time playing at Denver’s altitude. The Nets are in for an even bigger (or higher) challenge in Mexico City. With the frenetic pace the Nets play at, Kenny Atkinson will likely have to lessen minutes for his players or cut the speed. It’s an interesting – but potentially huge – factor to watch these next two games. Can the Nets get up and down the court? YES Network sideline reporter Michael Grady has been having difficulty going up and down stairs…

While the Nets’ current roster isn’t as loaded with stars as Oklahoma City’s lineup, the team will again try to play cohesively and as a team. With OKC in some disarray this season, Brooklyn could look to capitalize on their teammates’ dysfunction and secure a victory. While new basketball viewers may be drawn to the stars, winning could be what draws long-term fans. Take note, marketing executives.